Late for my first FF post… not an auspicious start.
This week we celebrated Epiphany, when the three kings visited baby Jesus.
One of that things in the story of the three kings that struck me most, and in fact strikes me in almost every other childhood story of Jesus, is this line.
“And she [Mary] kept all these things in her heart.”
It always makes me think about why she kept them.
Did she know someday she would look back on this occasion, and need to remember? Why did it touch her deeply enough that she kept it in her heart?
Rather then come up with any answers, most of the time my answer turns out to be a question about my own heart.
What things do I keep in my heart?
Now, I am a very private person. I can be loud and wild, just ask my close friends, but any deep emotion or private thoughts and feelings I rarely let anyone see.
But that isn’t it.
It’s not just the emotions Mary keeps, I think, but the very coming of the wisemen.
What occasions do I keep in my heart?
Mostly good things.
My first youth group meeting, my Aunt’s wedding, my visits to the School Sister’s of Christ the King.
Key moments in my life, especially ones in which I felt God’s presence.
For example, the last big turning point in my life where I felt at peace with myself, and with God, and more importantly with the future, was at a NET retreat at my new church that happened about a month ago.
NET, or National Evangelization Team, ministries is a volunteer organization hat organizes day long retreats across the country, run by college students.
The morning of this particular retreat I had had a pretty bad start. I got mad at my Dad, and we fought, and it was all a mess. The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere and hear happy people talk about God and the faith.
God certainly has a way of knowing exactly how to arrange things just for you.
I showed up with my younger sister and pretty much felt like a total outcast. we didn’t know anybody, we’d only been going to this church for about a month, and no one felt inclined to talk to us, instead giving us side glances like “who are they?”
I met a few new people, but being the oldest girl there, no real friends.
But that’s not what I want to share.
That afternoon, when we went to the church for a special prayer session.
They started with a skit.
This wasn’t like the funny cute skits they’d done through out the day.
This one was about one girl, and God.
The girl is thinking about how imperfect she is, how she doesn’t look pretty or thin. And God tells her how beautiful she is. Then, I forget how the transition is made, but God starts chiseling at the girl, forming her into the person he wants her to be. She stops him several times, sometimes making a request, sometimes saying, “can we finish this later?” and sometimes just begging him to stop, that it hurts. And God replies each time, with a calm voice, “don’t you trust me?”
Bit by bit he chisels away her pride, her doubt, everything that kept her from him.
Everything that keeps me from him, even now.
I felt the chisel on me and God asking me sadly, “don’t you trust me?”
Then when we were dismissed for private prayer, we were told that our team leaders would be coming around to join us for a minute and pray for our special intentions with us.
I grab a bible to pray with as I head to my pew, and when I get there, I open it… right to the Book of Jeremiah, the book they’d recommended before we came into church. I forget what I read now, but it hit me hard.
By the time my team leaders showed up I was pretty much a wreck.
When they asked me what my biggest prayer intention was I told them the selfish truth.
For years I have agonized over what God wants me to do. The past year and a half, I’ve gotten fairly clear signs, which relieve me for about a nanosecond.
How is that selfish you ask?
Well, I guess I’m not really sure but I always feel guilty asking other people about vocations, and to pray for me and mine.
Anyway, I bowed my head with them, and my primary team leader who’d been leading or private little prayer group earlier, lead the prayer. She said something along the lines of this…
“Dear Lord, help [Iris] to discover and follow your will in all things. She has so much potential, and… something, something something I can’t remember… and leadership.”
Then it was my turn to either say something aloud or privately and then finish with , “Amen.”
But whatever it was my team leader had said, it knocked me out. That was it. That was what I had needed to hear.
I laughed, realized there was nothing more I could add.
“You heard her Lord,” I thought to myself. “I can’t say it any better. Amen.”
Sometimes the Lord sends us small signs that we have to be on the watch for, or miss risking entirely. Other times he’ll give us a fog horn in the face, practically shouting “This way!!!”
Those words were my fog horn, and I will keep them in my heart, even if I don’t remember all of them.
When I was little, I used to think Mary kept those things in her heart to tell baby Jesus when he grew up.
Now I wonder if she kept them as a reminder that God was watching her, that he had a plan for her.
Maybe she kept them for herself, to help her through the dark days ahead.
Maybe someday I’ll get to ask her. 🙂